An App That’s Tight: Slaying It with Dungeons and Dragons Monsters

Dungeons and Dragons Monsters
By | April 8th, 2019 | Categories: Interviews

In games like Dungeons and Dragons, the momentum of the game is crucial. As everyone’s deeply entrenched in character, the awesome role-playing action must keep going without fail. Thanks to the handy Monsters and Generators for D&D app, there’s no stopping the fun!

Conceptualized and brought to us by a full-fledged Dungeons & Dragons aficionado named Manolo, this app makes Dungeons and Dragons Monsters readily available for you to generate audacious encounters on the fly. Let’s get to know more about the man, the app, and the game itself.

 (1) Tell us about yourself (name/nickname, hometown, age, occupation, favorite games that you play and what platform(s) you play)?

Hi! My name is Manolo. I’m 36 years old and am from Rome, Italy. On the net, you can find me as Manzoinfetto or Infectedmanz. I am a PC player who enjoys team-based games with his friends. I’ve spent years on WOW and I’m focused mainly on Overwatch right now. I’ve also been playing lots of LARP and pen and papers stuff like Dungeons and Dragons since I was 15. I work as an Android developer, and I love creating stuff!

(2) Do you work independently or in a team? If in a team, how big is it?

My personal apps are created solely by me, although recently some people started volunteering to create translations from half-a-dozen countries. I was amazed by the passion and effort they put in that.

(3) What inspired you to create an app specifically for this game? When did it cross your mind to create your app?

Everything started during a D&D campaign my friends and I were playing about three years ago. At the time, I was learning Android and when the group started using some apps for the new edition of the game, everyone was like, “nice, but it would be better if…” or “this is so clunky, let’s just use the paper”. So I decided to get a move on that and dedicate my free time working on an app for our group. I got hooked on it, and my friends also helped me with comments, tests, and suggestions. We also had a couple of “beerstorms” (brainstorms with beer) aimed at creating ideas, and we had a lot of fun. After six months, I was still not entirely satisfied with the results, but the app was working fairly well for us. So I had a go at it and published it in the store. In the beginning, it was just on display there, but soon other people started using it too!

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(4) What programming language or tool did you use to create this app? Do you have any favorite PLs or tools in particular?

I’m an Android associate developer and I always try to find the most effective and practical solutions. Moreover, I really don’t like going back to things that I have already developed, so I use brand new stuff as soon as they are released on stable channels in order to make things future-proof. I love Kotlin and I am a huge fan of Firebase and Jetpack, especially its architecture components like Room. Great libraries like Glide and Retrofit are also big helpers.

(5) When it comes to designing the user experience/UX of the app, what motivated you or what influences did you have?

When I started developing the app, I had just finished some UI studies, and decided that leveraging the Material design principles to create a simple yet functional interface was the approach that I liked most. I also wanted the app to be very user-friendly while playing and practical for DMs who are often in need of a fast setup. On the other side, the possibility to set up the encounters beforehand was also something I was looking for, so that players and DM could focus more on playing the game rather than on searching through big piles of paper. As for the colors, I looked at what the amazing D&D site and books were using and then I opted for red and black. This choice perfectly matched the idea that I had about using a dark theme because, let’s be honest, it’s cool!

(6) From the developer’s and gamer’s perspective, how do you think the app affects the overall experience of the game?

D&D is an amazing, great game, but sometimes all the notes and books just hinder the experience of enjoying the moment. There is nothing worse for me as a DM than when I’m about to describe a climax in the story like “The tentacular creature is about to open another space-warping portal to the outer realms, you have just seconds before the horrors start sprouting out!”, and then I have to stop because I’ve got no idea who is acting next, or the stats of the creature are lost in the number of papers. Having some data on hand in these situations provides invaluable help, and the game flows much smoother when everyone is focused on using their imagination rather than reading stats. Furthermore, the app also provides a way of randomizing the order in which monsters and players play, a dynamic that really helps to play the game in a new light and that wouldn’t be practical to use without an automated system.

(7) Is there any margin of error when it comes to the app’s performance and provided information?

There are bugs in my app which I’m always trying to identify and fix as soon as possible. Releasing beta versions and reports from the users are of great help, especially on the Android platform where you have hundreds of different devices and makers that are impossible to test for a single person. As for the monsters DB, I’m using what has been released under the Open Gaming license. Having this kind of official content available has proved invaluable. I think WOTC is doing a great job in holding it out of copyright. The wikis around the internet are also great community sources, and they are publishing APIs to fetch their data easily!

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 (8) What were your biggest challenges for this project? How did you overcome them?

Creating a fluid experience for every user was the first challenge. The app is not only used by people with different technical skills, but also from a wide range of ages and nationalities. Creating something that runs smoothly for everyone is an ongoing challenge that is always on my mind. Having constant and constructive feedback from the users is pivotal in this. On the technical side, without a doubt the M&G Encounter Generator engine is one of the most complex pieces of code I have ever written, and problems here are mainly logical. This code still has a crash I don’t seem to fully understand. I have worked on it for weeks and rebuilt it from scratch three times. When I was totally blocked, I switched to other tasks or just left for a while to do something else. That really helped. Besides, it is extremely useful to analyze and learn how other apps may have solved similar problems, either those which work pretty much in the same way or those which are completely unrelated. Taking a look at the big players on the market may also provide new inspiration and ideas.

(9) Are you expecting the game’s expansions to change your app’s dynamics and performance? Is it something that you’ve already prepared to tackle?

WOTC is steadily adding content to D&D, but right now this is not impacting my apps because they mainly consider the basic rules of the game. Anyway, there are lots of community content fermenting, especially around monsters, items, and character options.

(10) Are there any exciting new developments for your app that you would care to share?

I have a rough prototype of a character sheet app that I would really like to bring to life! Right now, it’s something that is at the design stage. Hopefully, I’ll create an alpha for the next winter. I’m also working on an NPC generator as a new section of M&G. To complete the development of Monsters and Generators, my idea is to have a comprehensive encounter builder, to craft the encounters of an adventure and store them. I’m also opening a Discord channel to have a more direct contact with all the people using my apps.

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(11) Could you share a few quick tips to new players of the game?

First and foremost, your imagination and courage are kings. D&D (as any pnp rpg) is a game where you can do anything that comes to your mind. You are not chained inside the walls of a videogame. Here, the only rules of the universe are about combat. Leverage this, embrace freedom, and be the hero! Also get a grip on the combat system, because in the 5th edition fights are brutal, fast, and explosive. Your few choices are critical and must be relevant or things can rapidly go to hell—quite literally! You can’t do it alone, it is important to understand the qualities of the other players and make them count. Help each other. As a DM, you should create an environment where the players’ cooperation is the key to victory, and failure should be feared. Keep the players on the edge, but also create a world that they can love and relate to.

(12) Any advice you’d like to share to aspiring game app or web developers?

Digging around the internet, you can find tons of sources with an open-licensed content of good quality. Those can be used as the foundation for great projects. I believe that in order to be successful, you really have to work hard on projects you love and be passionate about them, until you find the one that is right for you and honestly say: “this is the one”. You never know how much time you will need to find the right way. You will suffer, physically and mentally, get tired and burned out, and this is just about programming! Hang out with people who love what you are doing, show your work around, be humble but also focused. If you love what you are doing, other people will love it too, this always happens.

Use Your Illusion: Simplicity and Fluidity of Gameplay

A simple yet effective interface was what Manolo initially aimed for, and that’s precisely what he delivered to us. Thank goodness for that, your imagination and courage can run amuck as you play D&D. DMs can launch setup after setup in a snap with the Dungeons and Dragons Monsters app. Soak in the gaming experience and savor every moment. All you adventurers would do well to download this app today!

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